Fox Sports South takes a tongue-in-cheek look at 25 of the worst TV commercials to launch during Super Sunday (rankings in descending order).
Given the logistical constraints of tracking down every TV spot for all 48 Super Bowls, this countdown is frankly neither complete nor definitive.
However, it’s also a tangible timeline of how Madison Avenue has evolved through the years — from the innocent 1960s … to the decadent 1980s … to our corporate-minded, politically correct era of today.
Michelob’s TV sales pitch of the "7-Day Weekend" might have merit for the 19-year-old rushing a college fraternity, but the notion of New York City adults being blitzed every day of every week seems a tad ludicrous.
Besides, in the 1980s, who had all that time for beer … when other feel-good consumption products were more popular and readily plentiful at that time?
Rank: 22 Company: United Way
Year: 1983 (Super Bowl XVII)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone/Nolan Cromwell
We’re typically not inclined to poke fun at charitable commercials, involving tremendous organizations like the United Way. But if Sylvester Stallone agrees to take part in a Super Sunday spot, you maximize his time on camera.
Anacin has 150 more milligrams of per-tablet pain relief than Tylenol, Bayer or Bufferin? Well, that’s just the greatest news ever!
Sarcasm aside, this may be why modern-day Super Bowl commercials cost roughly $4 million per 30 seconds. In today’s market, companies simply cannot afford to launch yawn-inducing spots in such a coveted time slot.
On the plus side, this may be the only Super Bowl commercial in history to produce the response of "And how!" to a question. That woman/actress appears to be in genuine pain.
Give Garmin credit for dusting off an old chestnut from 1970s lore — the larger-than-life battles between Ultra-Man … and something that resembles Godzilla.
On the flip side, what does the spot have to do with anything human-related? And what’s with the hair-band at the end of the spot?
The whole thing was equal parts mildly amusing and utterly pointless.
Rank: 19 Company/Product: Miller Lite beer
Year: 1981 (Super Bowl XV)
This commercial doesn’t really serve a purpose, in terms of generating positive or negative feedback (the primary role of Super Bowl spots).
But it’s worth noting that, at the time, a lot of country music acts didn’t have national crossover appeal — especially for Super Bowl broadcasts.
And yet, Eddie Rabbit, with his "rockabilly" charm, seemingly had the goods to make the seismic jump into pop music.
(It’s an easy leap today for many country artists.)
The problem here: The TV spot reeks of something southern fried, and the Brooklyn-born Rabbit probably should have avoided the choice of a white jacket. (Is that satin?)
Unless Rabbit’s handlers were intentionally evoking comparisons to Elvis Presley.
Rank: 18 Company/Product: Chrysler Scubadiver
Year: 1969 (Super Bowl III)
At first blush, the new Chrysler Scubadiver bears an aesthetically pleasing look for the consumer, especially those living in sun-splashed states like Florida and California.
But the commercial also creates the misguided impression of an amphibious vehicle — one that’s operational on land and sea — which would have been an amazing technological advancement for automakers in the late 1960s.
In one respect, give the people at Owens-Corning credit for erecting a two-story glass house to film a simple commercial.
On the flip side, shouldn’t the guys installing the fiberglass be wearing masks, as a means of limiting their intake of potentially harmful fumes? (I have never installed fiberglass for a living.)
One more thing: This might have been the last high-profile Owens-Corning advertisement that’s not linked to the Pink Panther (cue the Henry Mancini music).
Rank: 16 Company: Holiday Inn
Year: 1997 (Super Bowl XXXI)
It’s weird how Ashley Madison — a company that caters to discreet-but-cheating spouses online — gets banned from advertising on Super Sunday; and yet, Holiday Inn is free to conquer the no-longer-taboo topic of gender reassignment surgery. Interesting.
Nice cameo from Steve Hytner, better known as Kenny Banya on "Seinfeld."
To be honest, collecting every official Super Bowl poster sounds like a pretty cool hobby for teenage boys — provided you’re discreet about it to teenage girls.
But the actors in this Super Sunday spot are way too peppy about their McDonald’s collectibles, especially since posters are usually adorned on bedroom or Man’s Room walls. Not mobile fixtures on gameday … like the ever-popular "D" and white fence.
It’s probably why, in modern times, you don’t see Steelers fans holding up actual Fatheads of Ben Roethlisberger while sitting at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.
Super Bowl ads are supposed to be memorable. The spots, by nature, are designed to prompt water-cooler talk among co-workers the following Monday morning — especially if the actual game itself falls flat.
Luckily, Super Bowl XXV was a scintillating contest, with the New York Giants ekeing out a 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills, thanks to Scott Norwood’s missed field goal (47 yards) in the waning seconds.
In other words, very few people took the time to discuss the merits of a Dockers commercial that had contrived charm … but offered little else of value.
Perhaps the company should have saved this commercial for the PGA Tour.
Nothing says Super Sunday ad like a few middle-aged men playing basketball near a country store, while a Grizzly Adams-esque character — and his bear sidekick — joins them for one ill-fated jump shot.
But that’s how spots were apparently conceived in the 1970s: Any bad storyline could be trumped by a group of background singers, gleefully singing the praises of a product in unison.
And when all else fails … don’t forget to add group shots of at least one guy with a mustache.
Rank: 4 Company/Product: Miller Lite
Year: 1990 (Super Bowl XXIV)
Here’s a perfect example of how all good things must end:
In the 1970s and 80s, Miller Lite dominated the humorous-ad wing of sports commercials, using ex-ballplayers (Dick Butkus, Bubba Smith, Deacon Jones, Marv Throneberry, etc.), comedians (Rodney Dangerfield) and TV announcers (John Madden) to create some of the most memorable sports-related spots in history — while invoking the timeless tagline of "Tastes Great, Less Filling."
Well, this Super Sunday offering from January 1990 must have signaled the beginning of the end of the "jocks" franchise.
Case in point, when Charo (of "Love Boat" fame) serves as the biggest sex symbol in a high-profile commercial … you know it’s time to close up shop.
On the positive side, it’s good to see George Wendt (Norm from "Cheers") getting more screen time than his commercial for Crown Forklifts — which sits at No. 24 in this countdown.
In its heyday, "Kung Fu" had a respectable following of syndicated TV viewers; but that doesn’t necessarily make actor David Carradine a candidate for a Super Bowl spot — while channeling his inner Curly of "Three Stooges" fame.
In fact, "Kung Fu" might have lost viewers after this poorly written, over-produced farce hit the airwaves on Super Sunday.
And just like the painful Dockers critique from above, the creators of the Lipton ad were spared much backlash the following morning — since the Cowboys-Bills rematch in the Super Bowl had plenty of action.
Forget the Super Bowl. This might be the worst commercial you’ll ever see during a major sporting event, period.
For starters, the "whacked out" middle-aged man is talking to himself while prepping to shave and vaguely alluding to some crazy night before — which, during the late 1960s, might have covered the spectrum of alcohol consumption … to something illicit that would have made Jerry Garcia or Wavy Gravy blush.